Magruder and Price’s attacks, despite initial success, were slowing due to massed union fire. Schofield and Sturgis conducted a strong defense, and though the lead union elements were pushed back, outside of Westport, the attack staggered. The Missourians under Price, the famed ‘Missouri State guard division’ of four Missouri Brigades plus an Indian Brigade, were now fatigued. To their right, Magruder’s division of six brigades, one Missouri, two Arkansas, one Kansas, one Texas and One LA, were pinned in combat. The union line needed to be broken to justify the victory in the south.
McCulloh lined his division up between Price and Magruder. His Army of the West’s five brigades were placed with his two Texan Brigades and Missouri Brigade in the front line, in the second line, an Arkansas and Louisiana Brigade formed up. As Johnston gave the signal for the attack with a barrage from the Army’s Reserve Artillery, McCulloh’s first line advanced. The union responded with Solid shot fire as the confederate line began to shake as it advanced. As the Confederates got closer to the union line, musketry opened up and dozens of Confederates fell. The center confederate brigade broke and fled and the flanking brigades soon became disordered. McCulloh’s attack was falling apart. The second line soon rushed up towards the front to assault the union position. If their attack failed, the Confederates will lose the battle.
The French Prince de'Polignac was one of the Confederate Army’s famed Brigade commanders. Not because of his ability but because of who he was. A French Officer in the Confederate army spoke volumes about France’s support of the CSA in the minds of a southern citizen. Though the Union too had foreign officers in their army and it didn’t mean foreign aid, but the confederates, who longed for a hope of aid, enlarged small acts. Now Polingnac commanded a LA Brigade. As he saw hundreds of Confederates fleeing from the front, McCulloh rode up. Turning to Polingnac, he asked
“That position needs to be taken before sun down. Take it with your countryman’s fashion. Can you repeat Wagram?*”
“I will be your Marshal McDonald. Louisiana, follow me!”
At those words 2800 men dashed for the union position. With bayonets glimering, they stormed over the union defenses. A shockwave ran through the union line. Men fled in confusion as Polingnac raised his sword, urging his men on. Just as he lept over the union breastowrks, a bullet hit him in the chest. As his men rushed by, leaving him behind, Polingnac, the un honored hero, lay bleeding in a mass of dead and dying. Like Icarus, the son of the Greek Sun God, at his greatest moment of glory, he is struck down. Never the cherish the honor he fought so hard for. Hours later, as body are being lifted from the battlefield to be buried, Polingnac’s body is found, now dead. The union line bended and soon broke. Reserves were rushed in to try to stop the breakthrough but were swept away by the unstoppable gray tide. On the right, Magruder’s men seived the moment and stormed the union works. On the left Price did the same. As the red battle flag was waved on top of the union works, thousands of gray clad soldiers race by with victory down the road. Hunter’s entire army broke and fled through Westport. Union Batteries were taken, thousands of soldiers were captured. Only the cover of darkness allowed the union army to retreat.
A bloody battle. It was the costliest west of the Mississippi and percentage wise one of the costliest as well. Of Johnston’s 24,000 men, he lost 2,300 killed, 4,100 wounded and almost none missing. 6,400 all in all. Over a quarter of their army, lost. Of the union losses 1,100 were killed, 8,700 wounded and 13,400 captured and missing. A total of 23,200 casualties. Over half their army, in the long eleven hour battle, was destroyed.
Judging the victory, it was one of Joe Johnston’s finest. He reacted superbly in his bad circumstance. McCulloh as usual was excellent, and remained Johnston’s best division commander. Price did well, as did Magruder. The new rising star however Polingnac. His charge won the battle, and he showed amazing leadership qualities. His glorious charge and his sudden death shocked the Confederacy. As the Richmond Examiner would say ‘None would spend such a short time in the army, but would be so loved.’ As far as the battle goes, Johnston’s victory left a clear road all the way to Jefferson City. The heart of Missouri was now open. Soon he would unite with a column coming to reinforce him, and the thirteenth state will emerge on the flag.